Thursday, April 18, 2019

Euro 2008 day fourteen, quarter-final – Turkey 1-1 Croatia aet – Turkey win 3-1 on penalties

After the great display of football provided by Germany and, to a lesser extent Portugal, on the previous evening I was looking forward to the game between the two ‘underdogs’ Turkey and Croatia.

What the two teams actually served up was a few minutes of excitement and not much else other than whole hearted effort.

The first half passed with only one incident of note which summed up the general quality of the game. Modric cleverly created a gilt-edged chance for Olic who couldn’t miss from six yards out. Unfortunately for him and Croatia he did miss. He managed to hit the bar. Luckily for Croatia the ball fell straight to Kranjkar who only had to nod the rebound into the empty net from eight yards. You’ve guessed it, he missed as well.

Croatia pushed forward in the second half but only Modric looked capable of opening up the Turkish side who were defending admirably in front of veteran keeper Rustu who was looking every day of his advancing years. He did produce one fine save in last few minutes but overall, he looked less than his best.

I don’t know about anyone else but I was hoping for another last minute winner, purely so that I didn’t have to watch another thirty minutes! It wasn’t to be and extra-time it was.

Turkey looked the fresher and better side in extra-time and both Semih and Tuncay came close. Then with one hundred and nineteen minutes of mainly tension for the Turks and the Croats and boredom for everyone else, Rustu decided that he didn’t like the idea of penalties and tried to give Croatia the victory they probably just about deserved.

Racing inexplicably out of his goal in attempt to get the ball from Modric he allowed the cross to be delivered and Klasnic headed in to spark wild celebrations amongst the Croatian players, management and fans.

Turkey have shown us before that you have to play right to the final whistle to beat them. Croatia didn’t heed the warnings and they equalised with literally the final kick of the game when Semih struck a superb finish as Croatia failed to clear a desperate punt into the area by Rustu.

Penalties it was then. The body language of the two teams made it pretty clear that the Turks were excited and the Croats were devastated. There was only ever going to be one winner. With Croatia looking down and out they turned to Modric, their best player on the night to take the first kick. They got off to the worst possible start when he placed his kick wide.

Arda, Semih and Hamit scored convincingly for Turkey, but only Srna scored for Croatia with Rakitic missing and Rustu, the most relieved man in the stadium after his late mistake, saving from Petric and turning himself from villain to hero.

There is no doubt that Croatia will rightly feel that they have missed a glorious opportunity to get to at least the semi-final. They could and should have won this game. Turkey, on the other hand, have shown great spirit, resilience and, at times, quality and will feel that fate is with them. It is remarkable that Turkey find themselves in the semi-final after having only been ahead in matches for a total of nine minutes. Germany should take note. They don’t want to be going into the last ten minutes with only a one goal lead!

As a neutral and an interested observer there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the quality of this game fell way short of the one on the previous evening. Both teams showed lots of effort and passion and resilience and determination and many other wonderful qualities, but neither of them showed the class of a Ballack, Podolski, Deco or Ronaldo.

I think the big winners last night were Germany. Because of the styles of the teams I think Croatia would have made life difficult for the Germans in the semi-final. For all their effort and heart, I can’t see Turkey living with them. Ballack and co will simply be too powerful for them. Because of suspension, they will also go into the game without Arda, Tuncay, Emre and first choice keeper Volkan.

Germany will feel that they are through to the final and that could be dangerous. There is no doubt that Germany are the better side but this Turkish side just doesn’t know when they are beaten. I think they will find out in their next game!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Graham Fisher


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